Wednesday 19 October 2011 - Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade Committee
Senator LUDLAM: It is a statement of fact. Maybe it is a statement of partisan fact. I will leave the clusters issue there. I have a couple of questions on the issue of Talisman Sabre by way of follow-up to a question on notice last time. Thank you very much for your answer to my question 563, which went into a bit of detail on the costs and some of the background details of the exercise. In the answer you indicated that you did not yet have a total cost for this year's exercise. I think you have also indicated that 2009 cost $48 million. Have we got a total cost for this year's exercise?
Air Vice Marshal Paule : I do not have any costs that have been acquitted for Talisman Sabre 2011. You would understand perhaps that the exercise is not long ago completed. It was run in July and it does take a period of time to have these costs acquitted. As you correctly identified, to put some perspective around Talisman Sabre 2009, it was $48 million. The budget for Talisman Sabre 2011 was $40 million. To date Headquarters Joint Operations Command have acquitted about $13 million of that. We have not yet had the acquittals from all the other groups. You would understand that joint operations command is one group. There are Army, Navy and Air Force groups and other participants as well. So all of those groups participating we would expect to come in under the budget of $40 million.
Senator LUDLAM: I will put in a question on notice to you on a bit of a long fuse that is not a time limit apart from when you get those final acquittals from all of the services. Could you provide that for us?
Air Vice Marshal Paule : Certainly.
Senator LUDLAM: I suspect that will be before the February session. Thanks. You indicated in your answer that you were not aware of any campaign to cancel the exercise given the extraordinary natural disasters experienced by Queensland over the summer with that money better spent on recovery. I do find it a bit incredible that you were not aware that people were making those comments and those requests of Defence. What can you tell us about your engagement with people who quite clearly are opposed to these things occurring at all; and do you think maybe you need to improve your interaction with local communities?
Air Vice Marshal Paule : This does not normally sit within my portfolio, but I do know that Joint Operations Command undertake community engagement in the lead-up to the exercise. I cannot tell you right here and now how much of that they did or for how long a period in the lead-up to Talisman Sabre 2011, but I am certain that they would have undertaken some community engagement.
Senator Feeney: It does not fall within my area of responsibility either but I have had cause to meet with the local council there and represented the minister when they have made representations to Defence. I think in that and related meetings I have only ever encountered a sentiment of support for Talisman Sabre.
Gen. Hurley : We do hold town hall type meetings with the local community for people to come and be briefed on the exercise for that particular year: the nature of the exercise, who is participating and so forth, and give an opportunity for people to present issues. I think there is a reasonable engagement program with the local community. If particular issues are aired but not aired to us directly we may not be aware of them. If it is taken up with the local government and so forth and they do not pass it on, we will not be aware of it.
Senator LUDLAM: That is interesting. You are aware there are people in the community who are very against these exercises occurring at all; you have people trespassing onto leases during-
Gen. Hurley : Yes, we are quite aware of it and quite aware of many of the activities they undertake.
Senator LUDLAM: How many complaints did Defence receive about the noise from the live firing exercises this time around? I would just indicate that my office is in Fremantle, which is a long way from Shoalwater, and we received several complaints. How many did you receive?
Gen. Hurley : I have not received any; I am not aware of any. We will get back to you.
Senator LUDLAM: You must have received some.
Gen. Hurley : We may have; I do not know.
Senator LUDLAM: That would be very interesting to discover. Defence also indicated that water quality is routinely monitored in Shoalwater Bay in the training area and in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park during exercises. Could Defence table data on water monitoring for the bay and for the parts of the marine park that are impacted by these exercises?
Gen. Hurley : We will take that up.
Senator LUDLAM: Thank you very much. Could you also table for our benefit the strict protocols that are used for warships during the exercise that exceed the obligations of commercial, tourist and recreational ships, which I understand is the case.
Gen. Hurley : Yes.
Senator LUDLAM: Whatever you have on that. Finally from me is a general question on the outcomes of the latest AUSMIN discussions which took place not that long ago: has there been any material impact on defence as a result of the most recent round of discussions, which I understand discussed issues of interoperability, basing rights and so on here in Australia?
Gen. Hurley : There has been no material impact. I mean, the issues in AUSMIN were very much policy-level issues with signing of agreements and so forth, so in a sense direct material impact from the discussions-no.
Senator LUDLAM: None. I will return to these later. Thanks, Chair.